1. The Baker and the Empire.

By Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times, December 10, 2017, Pg. SR9

There are fine constitutional lawyers who can argue back and forth about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case the Supreme Court heard last week, which will determine whether a Christian baker can decline to make a same-sex couple’s wedding cake. The court’s decision will either limit antidiscrimination law or limit First Amendment protections, so it’s not surprising that you can find deeply-footnoted legal arguments on both sides.

Nor is it surprising that I’m on the side of the baker. But I’m not going to make a constitutional argument for his rights. I’m going to make a political argument for why our country would be better off if he were left alone to bake his cakes.

Democratic life requires accepting that your own faction may be out of power roughly half the time. But in a culture this diverse and divided we trust our fellow citizens less, we share less with them, and we fear that any political defeat will leave our communities at their mercy, that if we lose power we will be routed and destroyed.

This kind of cycle of incomprehension and aggression tends to destroy republics if it isn’t broken, if leaders can’t compromise ideological principles to maintain civic peace, if partisans can’t imagine how the world looks in communities vastly different from their own.

I’ve written before that one hope is a president who behaves like a good emperor, who acts to reassure threatened-feeling out-groups in a way that Obama failed to do and Trump is incapable of even attempting.

But Anthony Kennedy is also an imperial figure, and he has a chance to rule like a good emperor in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, to balance his Obergefell decision with a panic-defusing counterpoint.

Liberalism won the same-sex marriage battle. Religious conservatism isn’t going away. We all have to find a way to live together. That goal requires some compromise and magnanimity. Here is an opportunity: Please, for the sake of the country, leave the baker alone.


2. Judge supports Metro’s decision to ban Christmas-themed Catholic ads.

By Martine Powers, The Washington Post, December 10, 2017, Pg. C6

A federal judge has rejected the Archdiocese of Washington’s request to force Metro to post its Christmas advertisements, affirming that the transit agency has the right to ban posters featuring a religious-themed scene.

The issue first came up nearly two weeks ago, when the Archdiocese of Washington sought to post advertisements on Metro buses that would tout its­ “#FindThePerfectGift” campaign, which encourages people to attend Catholic mass or make charitable donations during the holiday season.

The ad featured several robed figures carrying shepherd’s rods, as well as two sheep, which appeared to represent a scene from the biblical story of Christmas.

Archdiocese spokesman Ed McFadden said church officials are disappointed with the judge’s decision.

“While this preliminary ruling that there should be no room made for us on WMATA buses is disappointing, we will continue in the coming days to pursue and defend our right to share the important message of Christmas in the public square,” McFadden said.


3. Amid embassy furor, Vatican cautions against ‘new cycle of violence’.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, December 10, 2017

Once again expressing its alarm over U.S. President Donald Trump’s relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that has provoked violent clashes across the Middle East, the Vatican on Sunday called for “wisdom and prudence” and affirmed “the essential need for respecting the status quo.”

Trump made the embassy announcement last Wednesday, just hours after Pope Francis had issued a last-minute appeal to avoid such a destabilizing gesture.

“I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations,” Francis said that day.

Sunday’s statement, released in the form of a communique from the Vatican Press Office, marks the first time the Vatican has spoken on the embassy controversy since the decision became official.

“In expressing his sorrow for the clashes in recent days that have produced victims, the Holy Father renews his appeal for the wisdom and prudence of everyone, and raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land,” it said.

The language about “clashes” was a reference to several places in the Middle East where protests have broken out, including Jerusalem itself, where outraged Palestinians are in their third self-declared “day of rage.” Clashes between police and protestors have also occurred in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon.

The Vatican also expressed support for emergency Arab initiatives called to try to respond to the fallout.

“Concerns about the prospectives for peace in the region are the object in these days of various initiatives, among them meetings called urgently by the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation,” the Vatican statement said.


4. Pope urges nuclear disarmament, climate-change solutions.

By Associated Press, December 10, 2017, 6:58 AM

Pope Francis is calling for a world without nuclear arms and for effective measures to combat climate change.

Addressing the faithful Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, he stressed what he called “the strong link between human rights and nuclear disarmament.” Francis said working to protect the dignity of the weakest and most disadvantaged implies “also working with determination to build a world without nuclear arms.” He urged people to put intelligence and technology at the “service of peace and true progress.”

A strong crusader for the environment, Francis also expressed hope that people will realize the “need to adopt truly efficient decisions to fight climate change” while also combatting poverty.


5. After a century, the largest Catholic church in North America is finally complete.

By Sharon Samber, Religion News Service, December 9, 2017, 12:13 PM

The largest Catholic church in North America is now complete.

After 100 years of construction, thousands of worshippers Friday witnessed the blessing of 24 tons of Venetian glass that embellish the dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Called the “Trinity Dome,” the glass mosaic is the final architectural element of the church, a shrine to Mary which sits next to the Catholic University of America and is visited by nearly 1 million people a year.

A 10-minute procession of cardinals, bishops, and priests preceded the two-hour ceremony and Mass to mark the dedication of the dome.


6. Pope singles out Rome’s decay, corruption on traditional feast day.

By Reuters, December 8, 2017, 11:43 AM

Pope Francis lamented the decay and degradation of Rome on Friday, using a traditional prayer on a national feast day to highlight problems such as environmental blight and corruption in the Italian capital.

Rome has fallen into disrepair and degradation in recent years, with streets full of pot holes, piles of garbage and neglected public gardens where weeds grow as tall as a person.

Francis, who is also bishop of Rome, prayed that the residents of the city develop “antibodies against some viruses of our times”.

Those he listed included “resignation to environmental and ethical degradation,” “civic incivility,” “contempt for the common good,” and fear of immigrants.

In July, two leaders of a crime ring that plundered Rome city coffers were convicted along with some 40 politicians, officials and businessmen, at the end of one of the biggest corruption trials in the Italian capital.

The investigation of the crime ring laid bare systemic corruption in the city as politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen hooked up with lowlife criminals to rig public tenders.

The corruption was seen as the one of the causes of the recent disrepair and degradation, which has received widespread cover in the foreign media, blemishing the city’s appeal as a tourist destination.


7. DOJ investigates Planned Parenthood for fetal tissue sales.

By Catholic News Agency, December 8, 2017, 3:43 PM

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a formal investigation of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, for their role in the alleged sale of baby body parts.

“The Justice Department’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is a major turning point in the battle to hold the nation’s largest abortion business accountable,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Dec. 8.

“Evidence shoes Planned Parenthood sought to squeeze every last opportunity for cash from the sale of hearts, brains, lungs, and livers of aborted children… that ends now,” Dannenfelser continued.

The Justice Department confirmed Dec. 7 they were formally looking into allegations against Planned Parenthood for the illegal sale of aborted baby body parts.

The investigation comes two years after undercover journalist David Daleiden released footage of Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the price and monetary compensation of fetal tissue from aborted babies. The footage also includes conversations from representatives of StemExpress, a company that provides biological material for medical research company.